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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke with President Donald Trump on Friday in the wake of the horrific attack at two mosques in Christchurch that is believed to have killed 49 people.

In recounting her conversation with Trump, she said: “He very much wished for his condolences to be passed on to New Zealand.”

She continued: “He asked what support the U.S. could provide. My message was sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.” When asked what his response was, she said, “He acknowledged that and agreed.”

But despite agreeing to the request on the phone, Trump didn’t follow through. When Trump held a public event on Friday in the Oval Office and addressed the devastating attack, he was seemingly unable to share the “love” and “sympathy” for all Muslim communities that Ardern had requested.

In his statement about the attack, he expressed sorrow for New Zealand without mentioning Muslims directly at all:

His earlier comments had also omitted any mention of Islam, Muslims, Islamophobia, or the white nationalist bigotry that inspired the attack. On Twitter, he continued to direct his concern specifically to New Zealand — even saying “We love you New Zealand!” — without honoring Ardern’s simple request of reaching out to Muslims in particular.

It may seem like a quibble, but Ardern’s request was quite direct, and Trump actually seems to be bending over backward to avoid expressing sympathy for Muslims. There’s a pernicious logic behind this choice: For Trump, Muslims are the aggressors, not victims. He spent his entire presidential campaign and much of his presidency. spreading disinformation and bigotry about Muslims, so to acknowledge that they too can be victims — and victims of a white supremacist ideology that he embraces — would undermine the rationale for his rise to the presidency. He’s even made policy based on this hateful campaign against Muslims.

But this rhetorical choice is dangerous. It sends a clear signal of approval to bigots like the perpetrators of the heinous terrorist act in Christchurch. And for the less extremist among Trump’s supporters, it gives them license to disregard to dangers of Islamophobia.

And when Trump continued in the press event to celebrate his national emergency declaration that continues to stoke unnecessary fears about the border — fears which he has repeatedly tried to tie, erroneously, to threats from Muslim terrorists — he continued to fan the flames of white supremacy and anti-immigrant hostility. He even invoked the hateful language of an “invasion” at the border during the event — the exact word the suspect in the Christchurch attacked is believed to have used to describe his fear of Muslim immigrants.

 

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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